Google+ seems to be all the rage these days, with wildly divergent views among social media practitioners and users with respect to the viability of the social network. Personally, I’m still on the fence with regards to the current value of Google+ to brands and marketers, a view I shared with my fellow presenters and listeners via Bulldog Reporter’s PR University webcast yesterday.

For those of you who were unable to listen in, and for what it’s worth, here’s a summary of my perspective on Google+ as a marketing channel.

Friends are optional

Users don’t need to bring their friends to enjoy Google+. On Google+, users can seek out topics and then discover interesting conversations among strangers with similar interests. In that respect, it is more like Twitter than Facebook: Facebook has no value without your friends. Therefore, Google+ should be a good place to find and engage new audiences who may not know about you today.

Users will be drawn to Google+ through content experiences

The gateway to Google+ will be Google search, Google Reader, Google “Flipboard” (Google is allegedly developing a Flipboard-killer), Picasa, YouTube, Google Music and other Google services that drive content discovery and consumption. While these services are poorly integrated today, they will likely improve over time, and will become important traffic sources into Google+.

Google+ will become a hub for public, topic-based communities

Ning tried to create smaller, niche social networks, and largely failed, but Google may actually succeed. The combination of Circles and Search makes it easy to discover and engage a conversation around a topic. That is not easily achieved on Facebook because most conversations are private, and it is difficult on Twitter because there are no discussion threads to follow. For example, try these Google+ searches to see what’s on people’s minds within some hot topics, as well as fringe culture;

Google+ won’t kill Facebook

People who use Google+ are not looking for an alternative to Facebook. They want a better experience on Google properties. Create more content that engages and facilitate conversations around your content.

Forget about brand pages (for now)

Have your employees engage and listen to figure out what works for your brand. Rules of engagement on Google+ are mostly similar to other social venues, so there is no need to revise your social media policies.

Google+ is important for SEO

It’s fair to expect that conversations and engagement around branded content and branded terms on Google+ will yield SEO benefits, just like signals from other social networks are already influencing search results.